Chicago mayoral candidate releases tax returns, shows unstable financial condition

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The candidate, who first said on Monday that she wouldn’t make public her tax returns like the two other candidates “because I don’t want to,” on Tuesday provided them to the Chicago Tribune. It’s now a bit easier to understand why she wouldn’t want to.

She initially refused to release her income tax returns in the race for mayor of Chicago.

Carol Moseley Braun, the former U.S. senator from Illinois and former ambassador to New Zealand, showed income of $15,000 in 2009 and a loss of $225,000 in the previous year. She only provided a portion of the returns, making it difficult to understand how the numbers were derived.

Moseley Braun paid no income taxes in either year.

In running for mayor of Chicago, Moseley Braun has frequently touted her business acumen, even though it appears that she is struggling to operate the small coffee and tea import business, Ambassador Organics, which she started in 2005. A spokesman for the business, Kevin Lampe, said that Moseley Braun has been a hands-on manager.

Moseley Braun’s financial troubles were also recently reported in the Tribune, which reported that she had paid her property taxes late, and had taken out an additional mortgage on her home to do so.

She is now attempting to sell the house. Braun, in a statement said that the tax returns “are one measure of the fight I have waged to keep my business running. It is not unlike what many small business owners and regular Chicago families are going through.”

The other two candidates, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Chicago City Hall insider and lobbyist Gery Chico, have already made their returns public.

According to records released by Emanuel, he and his wife made nearly $2 million over the last five years and paid more than $300,000 in taxes. The bulk of his earnings came from a blind trust.

Chico’s returns showed an even larger amount of income than Emanuel. In 2009, he and his wife, a school consultant, made $2.6 million; in the previous year, they earned $2.9 million. According to their tax returns, they paid taxes of $830,000 in 2009 and $900,000 in 2008.

The Chicago Tribune

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Chicago mayoral candidate refuses to release tax returns because “I don’t want to”

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Update: After a wave of sharp criticism from the public, press and opponents, on Monday evening Carol Moseley Braun backtracked on her earlier statement refusing to release financial records,  and agreed to make public two years of tax returns.

The candidate suggested earlier that she may have delayed paying some taxes, as a result of financial difficulties with a company she runs, Ambassador Organics, a small coffee and Tea company. Moseley was previously ambassador to New Zealand from 1999 to 2001.

Original story:

Carol Moseley Braun, a leading candidate for mayor of Chicago, said today that she won’t make her tax returns public, after both other candidates already did so. Asked why she wouldn’t release them before the Feb. 22 election, she simply said “Because I don’t want to” according to the Chicago Tribune.

She refused to release her income tax returns in the race for mayor of Chicago.

Braun made the statement at a press conference where she blasted the 2008 deal to lease the city’s parking meters for 75 years to a private company for an upfront payment of $1.2 billion. She claims that the city was ripped off and promised to undo the deal if elected mayor.

“There is law, casebook law up the wazoo about what happens when you get ripped off like that,” Moseley Braun said.

The other two candidates, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Chicago City Hall insider and lobbyist Gery Chico, have already made their returns public.

According to records released by Emanuel, he and his wife made nearly $2 million over the last five years and paid more than $300,000 in taxes. The bulk of his earnings came from a blind trust.

Chico’s returns showed an even larger amount of income than Emanuel. In 2009, he and his wife, a school consultant, made $2.6 million; in the previous year, they earned $2.9 million. According to their tax returns, they paid taxes of $830,000 in 2009 and $900,000 in 2008.

Moseley Braun said she won’t release the return unless she makes it to the April 5 runoff election.

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Chicago dings drivers $5 per hour at parking meters

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Laying claim to the most expensive street parking in the nation, the city of Chicago is set to raise parking rates on downtown streets to $5 per hour, up from $4.25, an increase of 18 percent.

Rates are somewhat lower and at a bargain rate of just $3 per hour in areas adjacent to downtown.

The rate increase is the third in a series of five increases, agreed to by city leaders as part of a master lease agreement with Chicago Parking Meters LLC, a private firm that took over operation of the meters three years ago.

The 75-year lease deal, worth $1.16 billion in upfront cash to help address the city’s financial problems, was widely criticized by residents. Most of the proceeds from the deal have already been spent.

The downtown rates will hit $6.50 in 2013 and increase annually- for the next 70 years, by the rate of inflation.

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Chicago still doing business with company that admitted to defrauding the city

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After defrauding the city in 2007 and admitting to it in court, Chicago lumberyard owner Donald Beal continues reaping millions of dollars in sales to the city, and Beal’s lawyer wants to keep it that way.

Beal was granted immunity three years ago for testifying in a whistle-blower case against former city trades supervisor Kevin O’Gorman. Prosecutors accused O’Gorman of using Beal’s company, Arrow Lumber Co., to bill the city for $50,000 worth of materials provided to O’Gorman personally, including cabinets, countertops, flags and carpenter supplies.

Cook County Judge Steven Goebel acquitted O’Gorman in the case, but accused Beal, who had already been given immunity by prosecutors, of the crime. “Mr. Beal did get on the stand, admitted to defrauding the city, but obviously blamed (O’Gorman),” Goebel wrote in his verdict. “I find parts of Mr. Beal’s testimony absolutely dishonest and unbelievable.”

Despite the assertion of the judge that Beal was the responsible party in the fraud, the city continues to do business with Arrow. This year, the city has already paid the company $300,000 as part of a 5-year contract potentially worth as much as $50 million.

Only after the Chicago Tribune requested Arrow documents from the city on Sept. 20 under the Freedom of Information Act, did the city begin the official process of removing the company from its approved vendor list. The city’s Department of General Services recommended that Arrow be disbarred from further business with the city some six months after the trial was concluded, but officials claim they need more time to wade through the paperwork.

In the meanwhile, Arrow is still selling materials to the city. In November, the Chicago Park District awarded Arrow with a $500,000 contract for roofing tools and materials. As a minority-owned business, Arrow has been given preferred treatment in contract awards, despite defrauding the city in the past.

Chicago Tribune

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Jail Guard Misconduct Cost Taxpayers $55 Million

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Center Of Abuse Charges- Cook County Jails

Illinois taxpayers will bear the brunt of a settlement approved by Cook County Board Commissioners resulting from a lawsuit over the rough treatment of incoming male inmates by jail guards. The lawsuit targeted the regular procedure by guards of subjecting inmates to strip searches while demeaning and verbally abusing them.

The lawsuit covered the period from Jan. 30, 2004 through March 19, 2009. Plaintiffs’ lawyers said that incoming inmates were regularly lined up, shoulder to shoulder, in groups as large as 100 and forced to strip while guards bombarded them with “sexually derogative epithets.” Even those detained for minor traffic violations were subject to the abuse.

During the period, as many as 250,000 men were put through the procedure, which the lawyers compared to brutal form of hazing. Besides attempting to locate contraband, the practice was intended to “put the inmates in their place”, according to Mike Kanovitz, the lead attorney on the case.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart defended the strip searches as necessary for security purposes and said that the department was working on ways to improve jail procedures. Incoming inmates are now searched using electronic scanners like those that have been used for years at airport security checkpoints.

The Cook County Board of Commissions decided to settle the case after the county lost a series of ruling in a federal court case that was filed in 2006. The commissioners were worried about an even higher judgment if the case went to trial.  A similar case involving incoming female inmates cost the county $6.8 million several years ago, but the Sheriff’s department failed to change its procedures regarding male inmates.

Of the $55.3 million settlement, about $10 million will be covered by insurance, while the other $45 million will paid by taxpayers, and added the county’s already massive $285 million budget deficit estimated for next year.

Under the settlement, detainees can file for awards ranging from $500 to $1,000. The lawyers in the case will collect $15 million of the settlement proceeds.

Chicago Tribune

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Man Framed For Stealing Mayor’s Private Cocaine Stash Gets to Sue

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In a bizarre case, a man who was framed and falsely imprisoned is suing the mayor of suburban Harvey, Illinois, a community just south of downtown Chicago. The reason?  Javon Patterson claims that Mayor Eric Kellogg was enraged over the disappearance of a cocaine stash owned by Kellogg and one of the city’s detectives, and set him up on the gun charge for which he served 2 ½ years before being exonerated by the State of Illinois.

Patterson claims that he was asked by an acquaintance, Willie Lloyd lll, to help steal a large amount of cocaine apparently owned by Harvey Detective Hollis Dorrough and Kellogg. Although Patterson refused to help, shortly thereafter Lloyd managed to steal the cocaine, which he showed to Patterson. Two months later, Lloyd was found dead from a gunshot wound in a case that remains unsolved.

Patterson was arrested a few weeks later and charged with a gun possession felony; while at the police station, he was questioned by both Kellogg and Dorrough about the whereabouts of their stolen cocaine. The lawsuit claims that Kellogg asked Patterson, “where’s my (expletive) cocaine?” He then told Patterson that if he ever returned to Harvey, he would have a murder charge pinned on him.

In 2008, an appeals court overturned the Patterson’s conviction and the state issued him a certificate of innocence. A judge has now ruled that Patterson can proceed in federal court with his lawsuit against Kellogg and Dorrough.

Kellogg is still the mayor of Harvey, and earlier this year, was named superintendant of the elementary school district. Dorrough is serving three years in prison for returning a weapon to a convicted drug dealer’s family, which he claims was done at Kellogg’s request. Kellogg was not charged in that case.

Chicago Tribune

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Chicago Welfare Director Looted Food Fund

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Welfare Official Aurea Picasso

A former Cook County welfare services director has been charged with stealing from a government food pantry fund to pay for her dental work, car insurance, cell phones, and her daughter’s “Sweet Sixteen” birthday party, among other things.

Aurea Picasso, 45, served as the welfare director for Hanover Township from 2003 through 2009. In her position, she was responsible for providing welfare payments to needy area residents. Instead, officials allege, she used the food assistance fund as her own go-to checking account.

In addition to the $125,000 in checks she wrote to pay her personal expenses, Picasso also had a side scheme to bolster her cash flow. Picasso placed a number of friends and relatives on the welfare rolls, then forged their signatures on their checks and cashed them. She is the 11th defendant to be charged in the county’s ongoing “operation Cookie Jar” probe of government thefts.

On the day that the charges were filed, Picasso was about to be released from state prison on an unrelated identity theft conviction.

Chicago Tribune

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